, my first startup exit

Marco Santonocito
6 min readSep 13, 2021


About ten years ago, I became passionate about startups, in a way that I left my job and went to work in Silicon Valley. It has been an incredible experience.

I was living in Sunnyvale. My home was 10 minutes drive from the famous garage where Apple was born. I was working in a startup incubated by Plug and Play, one of the most important accelerators in the United States, that helps companies grow and raise investments.

In this place, I had the opportunity to meet startuppers from all over the world and share my ideas, thoughts, stories with them. Here I learned what it means to start a company. Here is where I started dreaming to start mine.

So, back in Italy, I opened a co-working in my hometown, Pordenone, to recreate that atmosphere I was breathing in the United States and I started working on a new idea.

The idea 💡

At the time, some friends were preparing for the medical school admission test. For them, this was an obstacle to overcome in order to become the people they dreamed to be, so I started helping.

At each practice test, I tried to understand which were the topics where they were having more lacks so that they could focus their study only on the subjects they didn’t know well.

At a certain point, my question was: why not give this possibility to all the students who had to prepare for the medical school admission test? 💡

Thus I begin the development of the first application, the so-called MVP (Minimum Viable Product), a product with just enough features to be usable by the first customers, who can then provide feedback for the future development of the product itself … it was literally a success! 🚀

Hundreds of students started to register for our application and used it to practice for the admission test.

The Startup 🤝

Two years passed, the accelerator where I was working as a Product Engineer and Startup Advisor suggested to found a company to further grow the project. Thus was born Squezy SRL, my first company.

From that moment on, what started as a side project became a more serious thing. This can be summarized in hours and hours spent on design, code, data, books, accounting, tenders, … Hours spent by me and by all the people who shared this experience with me.

Since that our users have continued to increase. At one point, one out of four medical students was preparing the medical school admission test with …

… then Apple added us in the “School Essentials 🎓” category in the App Store for three consecutive years …

… and we respectively reached first place in the Education category and 44th place among the most downloaded apps in all of Italy.

We had created a unique product, far above all platforms on the market and which met the needs of a niche of students.

Exit 💪

Time passed. The team was continuously working and improving the application. Then the first lockdown arrived. A historic date that changed our lives.

To adapt to this change, companies have had to start a transformation process and many players in the education field have begun to take an interest in our company. They asked for partnerships, advertising, sharing, acquisition,…

Above all, a company named Testbusters was the one that struck me most: young, active, fast, and passionate about its product. They asked to acquire our company.

This was the moment when I went out of my comfort zone, and I had to deal with an unknown world. I’ve never sold a company: how can I do it? What does it entail?

It was not easy, luckily I had the support of an excellent accountant and of Testbusters’ CFO (Chief Financial Officer). They stayed by my side all the time, explaining every step in detail.

So, after a few months of negotiations, we reached an agreement, and today has joined the Testbusters family.

📚 What have I learned?

Do not wait

We often leave our dreams in the drawer because we wait. We are waiting to have all the skills, to take a certification, we are waiting for someone’s permission, … the fact is that the conditions will never be perfect, if you have a project and it is important for you, then go. Take this new path and improve as you go along.

You can’t do it all by yourself

“If you want to go fast, tackle the road alone; if you want to go far, tackle it together with other people” — Proverb

It is absolutely true. I started carrying out this project on my own, taking care of everything: from copywriting to development. As soon as I found the first partners to work with me, the quality of the work improved enormously, and I started having more fun.

Working with your associates and friends makes the whole experience much more enjoyable, and the continuous exchange of views and problem solving allows you to grow professionally and improve the product.

Start small

It’s easy to have so many ideas and integrate them one after another into your product, overloading it with features and making it difficult to use and maintain.

It is much better to focus on building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by the first customers.

Starting small allows you to listen to your users, add features you actually need, and improve day by day. We followed the same methodology in building, the first version was terrible, but we took advantage of everything we learned to improve the product in the long term.

True fans

In 2008, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay titled “1,000 True Fans”. He explained that rather than focusing on pursuing a widespread celebrity, a creator’s initial goal must be to reach 1,000 true fans.

A true fan will buy everything you produce. He is the person who drives for hours to see you sing, the one who buys all your books or the one who will come to your restaurant at least once a month.

Start finding your true fans and create a connection with them. Their enthusiasm for your products will be the fuel that keeps you going.

Failure is inevitable

The chances of your startup being successful are minimal. It is a harsh reality. But we must start to see failure in a positive way: you can win and be successful or lose and win by learning something new.

In How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie tells the story of Bob Hoover, a famous pilot who performed aerobatics. During one of his performances both engines suddenly stopped, fortunately, his ability allowed him to land without major damage.

On the ground, he noticed that his plane had been refueled with the wrong fuel. Back at the airport, he asked to see the mechanic in charge of refueling. The boy was so frightened that he started crying. However, Bob put his arm around his shoulders and said “To show you that I’m sure you won’t do it again, I want you to always take care of refueling my F51 from now on.”

Failure is the best way to stop making mistakes.

One last word…

I would never have reached this point without the help and, above all, the trust demonstrated by the people who decided to invest their time in this idea, without any guarantee of success: Sebastiano, Eugenio, Luca, Paolo, Emilio,… Thanks!

And now? is what I have been doing for a long time, and I will continue to follow it very closely. I want it to expand and grow. It’s nice to know it has better chances of doing it now.

For the rest, I will continue to carry on the role of Chief Technology Officer in Vitesy, and I have some objectives to achieve also here.

Ad maiora!